OnLive officially goes where no cloud gaming service has gone before today—Android tablets and smartphones, with Apple’s iOS devices to follow pending certification.
Let’s review, in case you’re saying “On-Who?” OnLive is a distributed gaming service that takes all the horsepower needed to crunch complex games and handles it remotely, passing along just the visual data to a client device using a compression algorithm that makes the picture look better or worse dependent on your bandwidth. It requires virtually no local processing—only enough to serve up the client app and shuttle input data back to OnLive’s remote servers—and only needs a 2Mbps (though 5Mbps recommended) to do its thing.
And now it’s on Android, extending OnLive’s reach from desktops and televisions to mobile devices.
Even if you’re not a fan of cloud gaming because you’re a graphics purist and don’t like the way OnLive’s visual feed sometimes succumbs to ugly artifacts when your connection speed drops or latency increases, its appearance on tablets and smartphones is momentous. For all the ballyhoo about tablet and smartphone gaming, traditional gamers want to play stuff that isn’t available in the mobile space. If you want to play L.A. Noire or Batman: Arkham City, for instance, you need a PC, PlayStation 3, or Xbox 360.
Until today: OnLive’s new tablet/smartphone version is launching with 25 games, each adapted for use with a touchscreen. The list includes stuff you wouldn’t expect, like LEGO Batman, Assassin’s Creed Revelations, L.A. Noire, and of course, Batman: Arkham City. If you wouldn’t think of swinging around Gotham with thumbs on glass, there’s the OnLive gamepad, which looks like a hybrid Xbox 360-PlayStation 3 controller and syncs with the tablet’s OnLive app wirelessly.
I haven’t been able to try it on an Android device—we’re an iOS house here, for better or worse—but I’ve been fiddling with OnLive since E3 2010, and while it’s still not my preferred gaming platform when I’m at home, I might pick it over a 3DS or PSP (or even the Vita) were I on the go with a speedy, dependable wireless connection.
If you’re tempted to give it a try, all you need’s the freebie OnLive client app (downloadable from Android Market), which includes a free copy of LEGO Batman. That’ll give you a chance to test-drive your connection, see how it works over 3G, or even 4G, since OnLive says it’s fully compatible with 4G LTE service. It sounds like the Universal OnLive Wireless Controller, which sells for $49.99, isn’t available yet (OnLive says it will be “soon”), so your best bet’s to grab the client, LEGO Batman, and fool around with everything before dropping $50 on the controller, and more (per title) to play games with it.